Not our finest hours... American betrayals of the "special relationship" with Great Britain
Tired of being told about a ‘special relationship’ that didn’t seem to exist, PETER HITCHENS decided to look into what really went on between our two countries.
Source: Uncovered: American duplicity that finally explodes the myth of a 'Special Relationship': How US discussed 'blasting the hell' out of UK forces in the Suez Crisis... and other shameful betrayals of our historic alliance | Daily Mail Online
I, for one, am ashamed. The phrase, "American Century," referring to the 20th, loses much of its savor and sweetness in the realization that we built our global dominance on the back of — and by intentionally and arrogantly humbling — our Mother Country and what should have been our greatest ally, Great Britain. I think and hope I am not alone in saying that those of us in the United States who do believe in a "special relationship" between the U.S. and U.K. deeply and humbly apologize for some of the derisible and despicable actions taken by U.S. administrations from the conclusion of the First World War, through Suez, and beyond, and wish we could do something to make amends.
The history books talk about how the Americans "came to the aid" of our British friends in two World Wars, as if this was some sort of altruistic action. As this article makes clear, the U.S. expected to be repaid in full for its "war debts" from Britain — what amounted to war reparations, from a friend and ally, as well as the Mother Country of all English-speaking people, ourselves included — and when a cash-strapped Britain was forced to default, instead of forgiving those debts, we used the advent of World War Two to basically extort Britain's gold reserves! As well as acquire bits and pieces of her Empire, such as strategic islands, for ourselves. And all in the name of Lend-Lease...
Between the wars, naval treaties were used to enable the U.S. to catch up to (and eventually, during World War Two, surpass) the Royal Navy as queen of the seas. After World Wart Two, a financially-strapped Britain was forced to borrow $4.34 billion from the U.S. to prevent complete bankruptcy. Remember, we already had her gold! That loan was not repaid until 2006, sixty-one years after the war was over. And an American-engineered moratorium on debts from World War One in 1931, during the Great Depression, had frozen the collection of First World War debts at a time when Britain was owed more by other nations than she herself owed. It is true that about a quarter of the Marshall Plan funds went to rebuilding Britain after WW II. But a good bit of that money was originally from Britain in the first place!
But perhaps the crowning blow — and the one which really changed the course of history — was the Suez Crisis of 1956. That was when the United States basically stabbed Britain in the back by opposing, financially and (more-or-less covertly) militarily, the attempt by the British and the French to reassert control over the Suez canal, bought and paid for by the Brits during the Prime Ministry of Benjamin Disraeli in the reign of Victoria, after it had been seized ("nationalized") by the pan-Arabic revolutionary Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Ba'athist allies.
Without this severe strategic miscalculation by the Eisenhower administration (later admitted to be such by Eisenhower himself, but far too late to do any good), many things in today's world would be different. Without Suez, would the Iranian Revolution of 1979 have occurred? Would we have al-Qaeda, or ISIS? Impossible to know for certain, but it certainly seems far less likely. As the BBC article "Suez: The 'betrayal' of Eden" points out,
"If the Suez operation had succeeded, Nasser would probably have fallen, like many discredited anti-Western adventurers. This would not have preserved Britain's status indefinitely but it would certainly have slowed the scuttle of the Western colonial powers from Africa and Asia. Over-hasty decolonisation, which brought vicious civil wars and dictatorships to much of Africa over the next three decades, might have been avoided.
"Had the 'informal empire' system, by which American and British companies shepherded the Arab oil economies towards mutually beneficial co-operation, not been dealt such a blow at Suez, the vicious oil price hikes which did so much to dislocate the Western economies in 1973 might have been blunted or even prevented. In October 1973 a barrel of oil cost $3.02. By December it was $11.65 because OPEC suddenly quadrupled prices virtually overnight. The result was a huge economic downturn for the West and disastrous ripple effects for the rest of the world.
"There was nothing inevitable about Muslim fundamentalist and Arab nationalist victories in places like Iran, Iraq and Libya in the 1960s and 1970s. Britain had regularly put down such revolts, such as those of Arabi and the Khalifa, ever since Gladstone's original invasion of Egypt in 1882. Yet after 1956 she was in a far weaker position to protect Arab rulers from revolution. The coup in Baghdad on 14 July 1958 saw the murders of both King Faisal II and Prime Minister Nuri-es-Said within two years of their advice to Eden to 'hit Nasser hard and quickly.' The subsequent history of Iraq, and especially her recent history, would have been very different if Nasser had been toppled."
We Americans like to trumpet democracy, at least when it suits us to do so (we also support many vile dictators, when that appears to be in our national interest). But what we seem incapable of learning is that democracy is not always our friend -- especially when not restrained by our Founders' careful, if sometimes cumbersome, system of checks and balances. Not for nothing did Socrates consider it the worst of the three traditional, ancient systems to government (monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy), for pure democracy can easily devolve into demagoguery; it is always one vote away from dictatorship.
We were shocked when Gaza had a democratic vote, and voted Hamas into power; we were shocked again, a few years later, at the way in which the "democrats" of the Arab Spring voted in the Muslim Brotherhood; we have been shocked repeatedly at the outcome of popular votes in "liberated" Afghanistan and Iraq. But we should not have been: we ought to have learned our lesson in the 1930s, in Weimar Republic Germany. The Nazis' "Beer Hall Putsch" failed; what brought Hitler to power as Chancellor of Germany was a popular vote. Democracy, as I say, is not always our friend.
And so it was proven in Egypt, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East in the 1950s and 60s, and in other former colonies in Africa and Asia: the removal of Colonial, monarchical, Imperial powers frequently resulted not in more freedom, but in less... sometimes, considerably less. But our betrayal of Britain at Suez, and the decades leading up to it, was particularly egregious. And the fact that we built our power, during the so-called "American Century," by pulling Britain down into the muck and then striding across her back, is something which, as I say, does much to reduce my pride and pleasure in our accomplishments during the 20th century.
"Shameful" is not, I think, too harsh a word for our behavior.